September 11, 2018

PhD Program Propelled Amy Hester to Success

It was 2008. Amy Hester had just begun her master’s program, but she already knew she would require something else — a PhD.


Hester was manager of the neurology unit at UAMS and she and her team had noticed an issue with falls in the unit. Hester and her work colleague Dees Davis wanted a way to prevent them and manage injuries when they occurred, and the help available was not compatible for them.


“Falls threaten the well-being of patients and can be a significant expense for hospitals in cost of care and legal liability,” said Hester.


So started their work in evaluating quality improvements.


“We made a lot of progress,” said Hester. “But it was clear that if I wanted to have the scholarship in our work that it deserved, a PhD was the way to go.”


Hester transitioned into the PhD program in the College of Nursing in 2010 and graduated five years later in 2015. Her decision has not been without benefit.


“It enables us to formulate appropriate scientific questions, lead inquiries and do it in a way that is thoughtful, protects our patients and follows the guidelines of true scientific research,” she said. “It allows us to look at a problem in nursing and solve it using a scientific method.”


The brainchild of Hester and Davis has become HD Nursing, a private company started with the help of BioVentures at UAMS. BioVentures is a not-for-profit that manages and licenses innovative technologies created and developed at UAMS and cultivates them through marketing and selling.


The program was fully implemented at UAMS in 2011. In one year, it reduced falls with injury by 60 percent and overall falls by 11 percent, and saved the UAMS Medical Center $1.2 million.


Now in its seventh year of operation, HD Nursing is in more than 100 hospitals across the nation. On average, it has reduced falls by over 40 percent and injuries by over 60 percent, based on data submitted through the first half of 2017. The company now has three full-time employees and 15 nursing consultants.


The work is not done, said Hester who now works full time at the company.


“We’ve done well in the hospital space and now we are working on other areas like nursing homes and rehab centers, as well as community care,” she said. “We’re working on how to keep elders in the community and help them avoid falls that hamper their independence and sometimes place them in long-term care or nursing homes.”